Death toll rises in suspected immigrant-smuggling case in Texas

Geneva Matthews
July 24, 2017

Eight people have been found dead in a tractor-trailer outside a Walmart store in Texas in what police called a horrific human trafficking case.

There is no confirmation of the truck's origin, but smuggling undocumented migrants across borders on trucks is a common method of human trafficking between South and Central America and the United States, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC).

Among the survivors, 20 were in "extremely critical or serious condition" and others had non-life threatening injuries, Hood said.

San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood, who stood alongside McManus at the press conference, said firefighters arrived on the scene at 12:26 a.m. local time, and began pulling the people out of the truck.

"They were very hot to the touch", Hood said. He later added that emergency workers used triage techniques to help people in what he called a "mass-casualty" event. The employee returned with some water and called authorities. A person from the truck approached a Walmart employee in a parking lot and asked for water late Saturday or early Sunday, San Antonio police said.

Once the victims undergo treatment, the case will be turned over to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the police chief said.

With a high of 101 degrees (38 Celsius) in San Antonio on Saturday, the temperature inside a parked auto would have reached 120 degrees (49 Celsius) in 10 minutes, said Jan Null, a meteorology professor at San Jose State University who tracks USA child deaths in vehicles on his website, The appeared to have been illegal immigrants being pirated into the country, officials said at the time.

In Mexico, smugglers have often crammed migrants bound for the U.S. into tractor-trailers.

"Some went into the woods, we're going to have to do that search again in the morning, when we have some light", McManus said.

The driver was arrested, officials said. All survivors were taken to several hospitals. The truck remained in the Walmart parking lot until mid-morning on Sunday when it was towed away for further investigation.

The tragedy has shined a fresh spotlight on the often deadly conditions that desperate migrants endure at the hands of smugglers and human traffickers. "The driver and whomever else we find in this will be facing state and federal charges", Police Chief McManus told reporters. "We are very fortunate that there weren't 38 people who were locked inside of this vehicle dead".

San Antonio has a policy of not inquiring about the immigration status of people who come into contact with city officials or police.

Eight dead bodies were found in the truck, bringing the total number of dead to nine.

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